On Tuesday a community panel met on campus with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes and kicked off the lecture series “Talkin’ Trash.”
The panelists discussed garbology, the study of trash, as well as how New Mexico could move toward becoming a zero-waste state.
The Office of Student Academic Success is hosting the lecture series as part of the Lobo Reading Experience, a community-building program created for all students to share a common reading experience.
The book selected for this academic year is “Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash,” written by Humes.
His book presents startling statistics such as the fact that the average American produces 102 tons of trash within their lifetime. The panelists, however, urged people to change their thinking and habits towards waste and view it as a resource rather than a crisis.
“When I’m done with a piece of paper I would pretend it was money. You wouldn’t throw away money. It’s changing how we value the discards in what we do consider trash or solid waste and making those habits become new patterns,” said English Bird, executive director of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition.
Multiple programs and initiatives with the potential to reduce and reuse garbage already exist or have the possibly to exist both nationally and locally, according to the panelists.
Corporations such as Walmart are taking steps to eliminate waste or use it as a business strategy, Humes said. They have reduced their amount of trash that goes to the landfill by 80 percent. They grind up their old plastic clothes hangers and use them as stuffing for their dog beds, and they convert their large amount of food waste into compost, which they also sell, he said.
Jill Holbert, director of the Solid Waste Management Department, explained a proposal called pay-as-you-throw which has been effective in many cities nationwide. In the proposal, large garbage carts would cost more than smaller ones, while recycling would be a flat rate. This would incentivize people to recycle more and decrease the size of their garbage bins.
The proposal has not taken effect in Albuquerque because the department does not have enough revenue to afford reducing the rates for a smaller bin, Holbert said. However, he said it will be proposed again in future budget years.
“A good point to think about is what you’re personal responsibly is and what your expectation is moving forward, and what kind of leadership it will take to get people to make those personal behavioral changes,” Holbert said.
These panelists were joined by Jon Chasky, an employee for a local food waste recycler called Soilutions, and Scott George, the supervisor for UNM Recycling.
“I found in researching this book that is was things that were happening at the community level, neighborhood level or campus level that really create innovation in waste reduction and diversion. When a community or campus makes a decision to reject those products it inspires others,” Humes said.
The lecture series will continue Wednesday with a lecture by Humes at 1 p.m. in the SUB ballrooms. The Alumni Association’s Lobo Living Room will also feature Humes on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Centennial Engineering Auditorium.
Marielle Dent is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Marielle_Dent.